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Monday, February 23, 1998 Published at 10:39 GMT

Special Report

Pancake panache
image: [ Sweet nothings from Holland ]
Sweet nothings from Holland

If you think 'you've seen one pancake, you've seen them all', it's time to think again.

There are over a hundred different varieties, both sweet and savoury, on the menu at My Old Dutch restaurant in London.

As British cuisine takes on more global influences, there is a quiet revolution taking place amongst UK restaurateurs as they strive for the perfect pancake.

Making a meal of the pancake is still catching on amongst the culinary shy British but it seems we're getting there. "We get busier and busier," says My Old Dutch franchise holder, Jamie Prudom.

[ image: Going Dutch for Shrove Tuesday]
Going Dutch for Shrove Tuesday
"And on Tuesday [Feb 24] things will go mad. They'll be queuing up outside. It's all a bit strange to make such a fuss over a pancake but I'm not complaining."

Holland is just one country where pancakes, or Pannekoeken, are eaten as part of everyday life.

Cooked in large frying pan and tossed, the pancakes are open and thick and the size of a tricycle wheel. Fillings are mixed in with the batter, not spread on top. And once deftly manoeuvred onto a plate, the finished creation is lavishly garnished.

A savoury pancake can contain up to eight different ingredients, mixing meat, fish, vegetables and spices. And the sweet ones often extravagant, combining such heady additions as pear, ginger and coconut milk.

Without giving away trade secrets, Jamie says the way to a successful pancake is not to cook it too long and to keep a spatula underneath whilst in the pan.

And when it comes to the toss: "It's all in the wrists," he professes wisely.

The French touch

When is a pancake not a pancake? When it's a 'crepe'.

Apart from being French, the crepe differs from the pancake by virtue of its lighter and more crispy texture.

Crepes have become part of the fast food industry in France. Roadside vendors can often be seen selling them to hungry motorists.

[ image: A thin spread of batter, then reach for the 'raclette']
A thin spread of batter, then reach for the 'raclette'
But, the tightly rolled, sugared finger food undermines the true culinary delight and depth of the French pancake.

Brittany would be a good place to start to educate yourself in these matters. The Bretons go that one step further, distinguishing between a 'galette' and a 'crepe'.

The crepe is made with white flour, cooked in a frying pan and served with a sweet accompaniment.

The galette on the other hand is made with buckwheat flour and cooked on a 'bilig', a raised , circular hot plate which is much like a griddle

The batter is spread very thin with a special spatula called a 'raclette'.

[ image: The galette sizzling on the bilig]
The galette sizzling on the bilig
Lindsay Wotton has taken on the onerous task of educating the Brits in this cuisine at her restaurant in Richmond, Surrey.

She explains: "The galette is dark brown in colour, thin and crispy. The buckwheat gives it a very distinctive flavour and the savoury accompaniment is cooked and served on the surface."

New diners are often surprised at what appears from the kitchen. "We have to explain that the buckwheat makes it a very different pancake from what they are used to.

[ image: Adding the ingredients to the top of the galette]
Adding the ingredients to the top of the galette
"Also, that to serve the ingredients on top is how they do it in France. Our next step is to do what the French also do and cook the 'galettes' and 'crepes' in the restaurant in front of the customers," says Lindsay.

On Tuesday, Chez Lindsay expects to be very busy. But, the restaurant's team are making time to offer the public the chance to learn their fine art for themselves with two cook-in courses. (Telephone: 0181-948 7473 for details.)

For those of you who can't make it, be brave and take on the recipe for the house special below.

[ image: Le Supercomplete under construction]
Le Supercomplete under construction
Le Supercomplete (makes 8 galettes)


Gallete batter:

  • 250g buckwheat flour
  • 5g sea salt
  • 600ml water


  • 8 medium eggs
  • 500g grated cheese (mature cheddar and emmental mixed half and half)
  • 50g butter
  • 500g onions finely diced
  • 500g mushrooms, sliced
  • 50g double cream
  • 8 thin slices of cooked ham, cut into strips
  • 5-6 tomatoes, thinly sliced (allow 4 slices per galette)
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 10g clarified butter for brushing


    Galette batter: gradually add the water to the flour and salt. Beat for 10 minutes. Leave to rest for at least one hour.

    Filling: melt the 50g of butter and add the onions, salt and pepper.

  • Cook gently for 5 min, then increase the heat and add the mushrooms.
  • Cook for a further 5 minutes or until the liquid has disappeared.
  • Add the cream and bring to the boil.
  • Check the seasoning and remove from the heat.

    Putting the galette together (one portion): using the ladle, pour 100ml of batter onto the billig or griddle. Form a 28cm circle with a spatula.

  • Wait a few seconds, then brush the galette lightly with clarified butter.
  • Break an egg onto the surface of the galette and spread the whole of the egg white across it.
  • Sprinkle with cheese then add the onions and mushrooms.
  • Arrange one slice of ham and four tomato slices around the egg yolk.
  • Check that all the fillings are heated through.
  • Fold the sides of the galette toward the middle to form a square (the egg yolk should still be showing through).
  • Remove from the griddle and slide onto a plate.

    Serve with a green salad and glass of sparkling French cider.

    Bon appetit!

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